San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Fifth University To ‘Bridge the Gulf’

Students will have another college to choose from following last week’s green light from the government to open a technical university in Alajuela, northwest of San José.

The Universidad Técnica Nacional (UTN), or National Technical University, will be Costa Rica’s fifth public college, merging half a dozen existing schools to hold about 8,000 students.

In addition to Alajuela, UTN will have campuses in Puntarenas, on the central Pacific coast, and in the northwest Guanacaste province, according to Roberto Thompson, the vice minister of the presidency.

“The (university) bill won the consensus of all (political) factions,” Thompson told The Tico Times.

“The executive branch, along with legislator Janina del Vecchio, who was the principal force (behind the bill) in the Legislative Assembly, have been working on this for two years, practically since the current administration took office,” he said.

Following the May 14 vote, the government will create a three-member task force that has three years to oversee the merger of the separate colleges, define which subjects will be taught and set a date for commencement, Thompson added.

“The focus is to create a technical university, concentrating on technical degrees – including computer studies – which are what much of the future’s labor force requires,” he said. “The companies that are setting up here and others that are already here and want to grow all demand a high level of training in this area.”

Thompson’s chief, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, hailed the bill as a vote for Costa Rican “prosperity.”

“(The creation of UTN) allows more Costa Ricans to bridge the gulf between secondary and higher education,” said Arias, President Oscar Arias’ brother, according to a government communiqué. “It means …the difference between underdevelopment and greater prosperity.”

The four existing state-run schools are the University of Costa Rica (UCR) in San Pedro, east of San José; the National University (UNA) in Heredia, north of the capital; the StateUniversity at a Distance (UNED) in Sabanilla, in eastern San José; and the Technology Institute of Costa Rica (TEC) in Cartago, the former colonial capital east of San José.


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